The Bible is pretty clear on what’s sin and what’s not – as in the 10 Commandments. But then there’s our conscience. Romans 14 makes it clear that not everyone feels free to do the same things. I’ve always been guided by this verse:
…whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats [meat offered to idols], because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23
My paraphrase? “When in doubt, don’t.”
Don’t violate your conscience – even if someone else can do the same thing with no guilt!
I have been praying for a few days about taking a vacay from both work and my kids. I was all set to book a last minute (therefore inexpensive) cruise to Cuba and the Bahamas. I was JAZZED. All by myself on the ocean reading a book. Mmm. Lovely. Plus plenty of folks to hang out with when I feel the need for company (I’m an extrovert).
But tonight, my youngest daughter spent a good deal of time crying and sharing how stressed she feels. I immediately sensed I needed to stay home. I could no longer book that cruise without violating my conscience. (Darn!). So staycay it is!
What a help when discerning God’s will – when in doubt, don’t.
Romans 14 also has some great advice about dealing with differences various opinions of what is right or wrong.
Those who are more conservative in their views of what they can and can’t do (as in, they feel they cannot eat meat offered to idols) are told not to judge those who experience greater freedom of choice.
And those who walk in freedom (it’s ok to eat this meat), are told not to “despise” the one who feels greater restriction, not to look down on what Paul calls the “weaker” brother.
And especially not to cause the other brother to stumble by eating in front of him (causing him to either eat against his conscience or to judge the one who eats).
I recently caused a friend to stumble when I watched her do something that violated her conscience. I should have stepped in, but I didn’t.
I consider myself pretty free – in the sense that I don’t have a lot of rules outside of Scripture. And I think it’s easy for those of us who rely on grace to think that others should loosen up.
But I believe this passage says that there is more responsibility for the free to reign it in before others – not to despise and not to cause someone to sin against their conscience or judge the less restrictive person. It’s hard to remember to do that, but I need to try…
Dear Lord: Help me be more sensitive to those with more sensitive consciences. Forgive me when I’ve not been that way. Amen.